NCPA: U.S. Could Reprocess Used Fuel Rods Instead of Storing Waste

According to a new analysis by the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA), only a fraction of the new nuclear reactors President Obama would like to jumpstart will likely be built.

“The [loan] guarantees should lower borrowing costs and make financing easier to obtain, however, until the government meets its legal obligation to provide storage for spent nuclear fuel and high-level radioactive waste, the Obama administration will not meet their goal of seven to 10 nuclear power projects over a decade,” said H. Sterling Burnett, NCPA Senior Fellow.

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act was passed in 1982 to ensure proper long-term storage of nuclear waste, especially for the most problematic waste in the United States, spent fuel rods from nuclear reactors. After 26 years and more than $8 billion, the Energy Department determined Yucca Mountain, Nev., to be a satisfactory storage place, only to have the Obama administration recently halt all plans of nuclear waste storage.

“It’s disappointing that despite scientific evidence that Yucca Mountain is safe, lawsuits and political wrangling have prevented the use of the site as a storage facility,” Burnett said. The Obama administration has zeroed out spending on Yucca Mountain and announced the program will be terminated indefinitely. As the administration searches for alternative solutions, the NCPA offers one.”

According to the NCPA analysis, sites like the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, N.M., has sufficient infrastructure for ongoing disposal operations. To date, more than 100,000 containers of radioactive material have been stored there. WIPP has been extensively monitored for human health and environment risks for 15 years, and there is no evidence of risks.

“All in all, reprocessing used fuel rods would dramatically reduce the amount of waste requiring long-term storage, Burnett said. “It would also dramatically increase domestic energy supplies, and if Yucca is truly off the table, sites like WIPP offer a safe, ready solution.

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